Groomer to Groomer
By Joe Zuccarello
“I’m in the Pet Business”
Thirty to Forty trips per year. That is how much I am traveling these days. I travel to trade shows and a variety of client locations and sometimes even squeeze in a little personal travel for vacation or the annual guys golf trip. I log thousands of miles a year, stay in dozens of hotels, and eat at hundreds of restaurants. I am typically a very social guy, who is described by others as, “has never met a stranger”. I like to think of my personality and extremely outgoing and gift of gab with others I encounter as “friends I just haven’t met yet”. So this got me thinking of YOU.
During the countless number of hours of travel, something amazing happens each and every time I engage in even the briefest of conversations with a “friend I haven’t met yet”. Usually we exchange pleasantries such as “hi” or “how are you?”. These standard greetings can reduce the anxiety of the accidental locking of the eyes on each other or the awkward squeezing into an airplane seat before take off and having to battle for the territory of the shared armrest. Since I am also very inquisitive and look for material and business lessons everywhere I go, usually I will go one small step further and ask my new friend what type of business they are in, or what it is they are traveling for.
I have met all kinds of people during my travels, but one thing is for absolute certain, once they ask me about my profession and I tell them I am in the Pet Industry, the flood gates open and all guards are let down as now I seem to have some common ground with them where most wouldn’t. Yep, the moment I say my business revolves around pets, they are quick to tell me all about theirs! Not only do I get the, “I have a dog” reply, but it is often followed by a detailed description of the pet, the breed, the personality, the age and so on. Sometimes, my new friends will tell me about pets they had as far back as when they were kids!
So you may be asking where I am going with this story. Well, as I usually do, I am identifying an opportunity for you to seize and make your very own. This opportunity is one of the easiest business lessons I have learned. Unless they are oddly in the slim minority of people in our society who do not love or own pets, the customer base of the pet industry is larger than most. This being said, all of us must remember anywhere we travel, even if it is to the grocery store, or across the country, we only have to strike up a conversation with someone to potentially gain ourselves a new customer!
Think about this for a minute. What other businesses can you come up with that has the potential our business does? You and your new friend could go on for hours talking about their (and your) pets and how a certain haircut may make them look, or a certain product could help their itchy skin, or how a lesson or two with a trainer may help their manners, or even what facility may offer the best care giving for when the pet parent may have to travel or work long hours at the office. Whatever the case, the conversation will usually happen naturally and productively.
Since most of you may not travel as often as I do, I can bet you are visiting businesses in your local area where you can meet these new “friends”. Here are some tips for spotting these new friends and turning them into clients without spending a dime on advertising!
1. CARRY BUSINESS CARDS. One huge mistake I see is people in our business not having business cards with them everywhere they go. Keep some in your wallet, in your purse, in your card, in your cell phone case, but keep them everywhere. If you have them, use them. If you don’t have them, get some! Remember the last time you received an invitation to a party or reception in the mail? Remember how excited you were to know someone wants you to help them celebrate something fun or be somewhere important? Business cards are like your little, personal invitations to try your services. You may even up the ante a bit and hand write an impromptu discount on the card to encourage your new friend to give you a try. Make them feel important. Make them feel special.
2. Walk the dog food isle at the grocery store. Whether you are at the market to purchase milk, bread, or fruit, DO NOT skip the dog food isle. I can bet you will see someone in this isle contemplating which food, treat, or toy to buy his or her pet. It is perfectly fine to approach someone you do not know. Try it. Don’t be shy. Again, recall my comment about guards being let down when you start talking about someone’s pet. The perfect ice breaker…”What kind of pet do YOU have?”. Show genuine interest in their response and watch the magic happen.
3. Fill ‘er up! People take their pets everywhere these days. While you are making a small investment at the gas pump, look for pets in neighboring cars. Along with paying your enormous fuel amount, pay a compliment to a person’s pet and the conversation will flow as easily as the gasoline through the pump. Don’t forget to give them your personal invitation (business card) at the end of the convo.
4. Take a hike. Seriously. Get outside and do something for your health and the health of your business at the same time. Visit parks on nice days and look how many people are there with their pets. All of these new friends, just waiting for someone to talk to them. After all, let’s hope their pet jumps in some huge mud puddle that day so they need your services even that much faster! Active pets are dirty pets. Fortunately, you are there to save the day! Another great invitation moment.
Lifestyle. Pets are part of everyone’s lifestyle. Key in on where lifestyles take people and you will find more business. There are many more places you will find these new friends and I look forward to your success in building your business and forging new relationships!